[0] A public brainstorming thread

I would like to reflect the problem of information overload in a series of short posts. Since this problem is yet too complex for me for analyzing it in a coherent essay, I’ll try adding small ideas, one at a time, just as they come to mind. Each idea will have a label for cross-referencing. Comments are welcome, of course. In the end, I hope to arrive at a set of basic insights and principles for a personalized information diet plan.

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3 Responses to “[0] A public brainstorming thread”


  1. 1 Claus Metzner September 8, 2009 at 15:02

    Meryn, I completely agree with your observation. For me, too, books became marginalized by the computer. To counterbalance that trend, I have developed the habit of spending at least a few minutes with book reading everyday while drinking my morning coffee. I also think that a book leaves in our mind a much deeper and longer lasting impression than the short articles of newspapers or the Web. This is quite reasonable, since our mind-structure can only be changed incrementally under normal conditions. Any substantial modification (i.e. deep learning) requires that we keep thinking about the same coherent topic for a sufficiently long time period, from different perspectives, adding own thoughts to what we read, connecting the new information with what we already know. Books are better suited for that purpose. Somehow, the Web seems to be “optimized for distraction”, whereas books favor persistent focus and concentration on a coherent topical thread. When I read a good book in a comfortable place, I never feel urged to jump from topic to topic in the way I feel in the Web.

  2. 2 Meryn Stol September 8, 2009 at 14:59

    One personal observation that might be useful to integrate: When available, I tend to default to “easily digestible” information; news, skipping the long articles. Nowadays, the only time I come to reading books (non-fiction, but not on an academic level!) is when I’m physically away from the computer. In the train or so. I have a hunch that my book reading hours are in the end more educative than my web-reading hours. I wouldn’t know how to measure that formally though.

  3. 3 Nathaniel Thurston September 8, 2009 at 15:02

    One of the most important habits, I think, is an avoidance of advertising — advertising is designed to stay with us for months or even years after the impression, and has effects that are often subconscious.


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